|August 6, 2010|
|'Mad Men,' New Book Focus on Mistreatment of Women|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|A theme of “Mad Men,” the AMC series about Madison Avenue in the 1960s, is the degrading treatment of women by word, deed and pay that went on at ad agencies. |
The show has been getting plenty of ink lately including two pages in the July 25 New York Post and the top story in the Aug. 1 Styles section of the New York Times written by feminist author Katie Roiphe.
She said the nation is "again transfixed" by a show that is a "phenomenal success."
Roiphe is the daughter of feminist Anne Roiphe and author of "The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism." She teaches in the journalism dept. of New York University.
Secretaries were considered fair game for ad execs, sometimes paid $100 or so for their sexual favors and forced to run personal errands such as buying Christmas presents for the execs’ families.
The Aug. 1 show (10 p.m. in New York) included the above themes. J. Walter Thompson Co. was mentioned as an ad agency from which the $2 million Pond’s Cold Cream account had just been taken.
Roiphe, although noted for writing about feminine topics, did not discuss them much in her Aug. 1 piece.
She should read the chapter about the plight of women at JWT written by its first female creative director, Anne Wallach, (pictured) who appears in Women of True Grit, a compilation of 40 essays by women telling of their struggles for equality with male employees.
Women were "making $40 to the man's $80," Wallach writes. They were treated like a "different species" who would have "the vapors" at a certain time in the month and required their own floor where a nurse tucked them under a blanket for naps that lasted an hour or two.
No "girl" ever started higher than a secretary and those who advanced to copywriter or art director then donned hats to "distinguish ourselves from the secretaries and maids who bought lunches on trays to us."
Ad Side Stayed out of Battle
We couldn't help thinking what a great witness Wallach would have been for Betty Lehan Harragan, PR pro at JWT who hauled the agency before the New York State Division of Human Rights in 1971 on charges of discrimination against women.
Harragan, waging the battle on her own, obtained records showing that in 1971 JWT males averaged $20,458 in pay while women got $13,979.
She felt she had a good case and so did the state Human Rights Division which on Aug. 25, 1971 found "probable cause" to believe her charges. The battle raged for three years and resulted in 2,100 pages of testimony and documents.
She testified she was given no more work after she filed her complaint on July 12, 1971. She was fired in February 1972.
Commissioner Jack Sable ruled against her on July 15, 1974, saying he believed JWT's contention that she filed the suit to delay her expected firing (after eight years with JWT).
Harragan called that a "flat lie" and also disputed many of the 47 "findings of fact" in the case. She had been called "a superior writer and planner" in an evaluation in 1969 by PR dept. head Wallace Clayton and went on to write in 1977 "Games Mother Never Taught You: Corporate Gamesmanship for Women," which was made into a TV film starring Loretta Swit and Sam Waterston. It was broadcast by CBS in 1982 and 1985.
Oddly, the New York Times obit for Harragan, who died in 1998, did not mention the epic battle she waged.
This reporter covered the public hearings in detail but there was no coverage by the NYT. Ad columnist Phil Dougherty told us he "didn't have time to cover hearings."
Coverage by other press was light (Advertising Age reporter Don Grant and an AP reporter were present for one day each). Only one or two people were in the audience.
Harragan Used Division Lawyer
Harragan was represented by Division lawyer Sam Singer while JWT had a three-member team from the law firm of Breed, Abbott & Morgan led by Stephen Lang.
The team brought in witnesses from the JWT staff and executives of the National Association of Home Builders, the account on which she worked.
Frances Smith, retired PR account supervisor, along with Joseph Honick and Michael Lenzi of the NAHB called Harragan "uncooperative … critical of associates and JWT … prone to “long rambling conversations that didn't get to the point" … "radiated the idea that she had all the answers to everything" and had trouble "working as part of a team."
Singer tried to bring up reported sex discrimination practices on the ad side but this was rejected by Sable.
Singer had obtained a statement from JWT executive VP John Devine but Sable would not let him read it. "I will subpoena Devine as a witness," said Singer. Lang rose to say, "And I will go to the Supreme Court tomorrow and get it quashed."
Wallach 'Worked Within the Rules'
Wallach was aware of discrimination against women and the treatment of them in a patronizing way (the men would say "Good morning" to each other but compliment Wallach on looking "pretty" ("Why Anne, don’t you look pretty this morning").
But she says she "worked within the rules because I couldn't work without them."
She writes: "There was no machinery for complaining and you got into a multitude of trouble if you did. The prevailing attitude was 'women were lucky to have a job in this wonderful place. Don’t make waves. Nice women don't make waves.''
She tells of her long battle to be a VP ("the worst thing that ever happened to me").
She was the only woman among 16 copy group heads and felt she had the same duties of travel, handling billing and working with big clients. "It took me an amazingly long time to get the title and I knew they would never do anything for me again," she writes.
Men More Helpful than Women
Wallach got "much more help from men than I ever got from women" whose attitude was, "I got here. Now you go and do your thing."
She worked on the pro bono National Organization of Women account in the 1970s, although she did not get along well with its executive committee ("five ladies with big hats, big handbags and stern expressions" who included "two of the most vicious people I have ever met…who did their very best to undermine me like mad").
She and copywriter Shirley Kalunda rejected their initial ideas but NOW and Wallach's team eventually produced ads that "caused a lot of talk and wound up in the Schlesinger Library's collection of women's history."
Wallach believes that women are still paid only 80% of what men make for the same work.
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